On Getting Over Your Fear of Poetry


For some, poetry can seem out of reach. It’s like a different language. I don’t understand poetry very well, and I have to re-read everything several times before I even begin to understand it. Jacqueline Woodson’s “Lift Every Voice” at the Poetry Foundation’s website echoes those feelings, but also offers relief:

I used to be afraid of poetry. I thought it was some secret code only certain people were supposed to understand… But I know now that poetry belongs to all of us.

Because of that, I’ve always felt that my opinion over something doesn’t matter. Someone else has a better, more academic opinion, and so I don’t share what I think.

This is how one becomes a writer—by reading slowly and re-reading. By studying the way a poet breaks a line or finds a clever rhyme or makes you smile. What words were just used? Hey! How did they do that? Go back and read it again.

Jacqueline Woodson, who is an accomplished author, struggled. And through that struggle, she found her voice:

I struggled to read as a child. Sometimes, words circled around my brain in confusing ways. So I had to read the same lines over and over until the poem or story or essay became a part of me. And made sense.

The best way to learn is to dive in headfirst and lose the fear of failure. Woodson’s article attempts to give readers the confidence to read poetry, and encourages writing as well. It’s one of the best ways of expression, and everyone should learn how to relate to it.